Muscles sore? Give 'em a PUSH
If you’ve pushed your muscles too hard, it may be time to get them PUSH-ed.
The PUSH therapy system is practiced by physical therapists and massage therapists, but it’s not massage in the sense of a hands-on rubdown.
PUSH — an acronym for Power Under Soft Hands — is a misnomer because except for an initial exploratory touch called a palpation, most of the work is done with the flat of the therapist’s forearm just below the elbow and the therapist’s movements are generated from their core.
“What PUSH is about,” Rockford, Ill., massage therapist Joyce Cicero said, “is getting rid of chronic passive tension. It can be quite intense, but it gets easier each time.”
After the palpation to locate anatomical markers and feel for sensitivity, the therapist begins applying stationary pressure and slowly moves along the front, medial and posterior lines of the muscle targeted for treatment.
“You can’t work on the total body at once,” said Cicero, who has been a licensed massage therapist for 19 years. “It would take six to eight hours, but the stationary pressure is to get the blood to start flowing to the area so it starts loosening. The client may even feel some warmth because a lot of chronic passive tension is caused by a very tight, rigid muscle that has become that way because of overuse or injury.”
The stationary pressure becomes what is called soft pressure stimulation of the targeted muscle, which, Cicero said, “is not for the meek or the weak of heart” because the targeted area can be highly sensitive.
“I just rock my body back and forth as I go over the muscle,” Cicero said. “PUSH is a very simple method, but it’s very effective in what it does. Each time I go over the muscle, I do anywhere from five to eight strokes and I’ll do three sets.”
Belvidere, Ill., massage therapist Jeanette Garza said a few of her clients have switched to PUSH sessions with good results.
“I have one young woman who has a leg-length difference of a couple of inches,” said Garza, who has been a licensed massage therapist for 15 years. “When she first came to me, she had difficulty standing up straight, but she has noticed considerable improvement. Another client is a gentleman who had chronic low-back pain to the point that he had trouble putting his socks on.
“Now, he says he only has trouble when he’s out chopping wood or working on his car.”
Before getting to the technique, Garza said, the first thing clients notice about PUSH is that it is done without the client having to disrobe and there are no oils, “which a lot of people expect.”
Soft pressure stimulation requires the therapist to relax during the treatment. Cicero and Garza, who perform PUSH therapy on each other to perfect their technique, say they have benefited from the treatments and the decreased wear and tear on their bodies because of the technique.
Cicero said she received relief from low-back pain, and Garza said she was having pain and numbness in her hands.
“I thought I was going to have to find other techniques to continue working,” Garza said, “but after three treatments I was fine.”
She said the technique is easier than massage on the therapist “because you put your body in a position where it stays relaxed. You’re not pushing on the client, you’re more like leaning on the client and you’re not using your hands.”
The relaxation is considered essential for the therapist to connect to the tissue being worked in the treatment, Garza said.
After the stimulation, the therapist moves to an integration stage to check on the effectiveness of the treatment.
“The work has been aimed at getting the oxygen and blood flowing to the spot so that it begins to loosen,” Cicero said. “In integration, we want to see have we gotten the muscle loosened so it can get back to its original length.”
PUSH also goes beyond the therapist’s treatment, Cicero said, by teaching clients to perform self-treatment between visits to the therapist and teaching techniques that may prevent a retightening of the muscle.
“We don’t want you doing this forever,” Cicero said. “We want you to get better.”
Rockford Register Star writerMike DeDoncker can be reached at (815) 987-1382 or email@example.com.
Background of PUSH
PUSH therapy got its start in the 1980s after former competitive tennis player Michael Takatsuno attended a Zentherapy session seeking relief for lingering back pain.
He attended seminars and established himself as a professional in bodywork but was still interested in a technique that would give long-term relief for chronic pain. He increased his knowledge of musculature and tissue release as an instructor’s assistant in a physical therapy program at San Francisco State University.
Takatsuno adapted the therapist’s relaxed posture in PUSH from his practice of tai chi and raised the height of the massage table to be able to use his elbows instead of his hands to apply pressure without muscular force.
Certification as a PUSH therapist requires completion of five training modules over the course of about nine months. The modules address the upper and lower body, shoulder and neck tension, knee, hip and low-back pain, plantar fasciitis, core and structural alignment and pain in the hands and ankles.
More information is available at pushtherapy.com.